MANILA (UPDATED)— The Omicron variant has made it difficult to for the coronavirus to generate a more severe strain than the existing variants, a molecular biologist said on Friday.
Fr. Nicanor Austriaco of OCTA Research explained that it is "less likely and nearly impossible" for a much severe variant to pop up since five COVID-19 strains, Omicron being the fifth, have already been transmitted worldwide.
"There are five na, Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Omicron. Let's say you want to make a sixth one, and the sixth one has to be more severe than the five. What has to happen is that the sixth one has to be very different from all the five because if it is not different, your body will see it and destroy it," Austriaco told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.
He noted that each variant has a spike protein or "key", which is part of the virus that attaches to human cells and is typically targeted by COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.
"So you have to make a new key or a new spike that's so different. But what the biologists are saying, the molecular biologists, is that Omicron is so different from the other four keys that we cannot imagine a sixth key, a different key, that will be so different from these five that it will be worse," Austriaco said.
Data gathered by scientists "is good" to back up this notion, he said.
"They can look at the virus, and they can say, 'What can it change into?' And basically they (scientists) said it cannot change much now because Omicron is so different from the others that if it changes ... it will not work anymore. The virus will die," Austriaco said.
Experts, including Austriaco, earlier projected that Omicron may bring a massive spread of infection but also provide immunity to more members of a population, opening up debates on whether the variant is the last stage of the pandemic.
But the World Health Organization in Europe said soaring Omicron cases worldwide might increase the risk of a newer, more dangerous variant emerging.
They warned that Omicron's high levels of transmission practically ensures it will not be the last COVID-19 variant to worry about.
The Department of Health also warned Filipinos against complacency and purposefully getting infected with COVID-19 to achieve natural immunity.